The Census report is in: A higher percentage of young adults have been living with their parents in 2015 than during the recession. Despite widespread expectations, our refilled-nests are not emptying out as quickly and thoroughly as they did a generation ago. (The share of 18-34 year-olds living with parents was 31.5% in 2015, up from 31.4% in 2014.) Major blips in the economy, the difficulty in landing career jobs and the burden of student debt. Those are the usual reasons behind the current trend: a trend that some see as the new normal.
There are additional, counter-intuitive reasons. One is the imbalance in young millennials' lives between offline and online worlds. The youngest millennials are the first generation to grow up as dual citizens or, as Carl Pickhardt,puts it, "Two-worlders." That is they have, since infancy, learned to live in the overlapping and interconnected worlds of offline and online realities. Pickhardt, a psychologist who specializes in dealing with adolescents and young adults, writes that "Since birth they have inhabited the smaller Interpersonal actual world where communication and interaction are directly conducted, and the vast virtual Internet world where communication and interaction are electronically mediated."
He suggests that they are having a hard time balancing one against the other. Their computers are an auxiliary brain--an electronic enabler that serves a multitude of functions --information retrieval, communication, social networking, entertainment, shopping, creative expression, and problem solving. "It is an integral part of a millennial young person’s functioning, and that isn’t going to change," Pickhardt writes.
In consequence of our children growing up in these two worlds, parenting has become more than doubly complicated. We have to help our kids keep the two worlds adequately separated, adequately integrated, and adequately balanced.What's that got to do with millennials living at home in greater numbers than usual? It may be that online escape or reliance has come at the experience of offline education and experience. As Pickhardt sees it, "it might be that much of the hard work of growing up (building practical offline skills, problem solving offline experience, assuming offline responsibilities) requires laboring in the fields of relatively unglamorous and comparatively boring offline life. In this way, they may have slowed down the development of functional independence."
Thus some millennials may choose to live a while longer at home where they can continue to be sheltered and defer self-support and direction. They may need more offline time and practice before feeling ready to move out and live independently.
Perhaps it just takes longer to grow up in two worlds than it used to in one. Maybe learning adequate separation, integration, and balance required by today's dual citizenship just takes more time.
If this is so, the new normal may be here to stay. We might not want to convert their bedrooms to our own private dens quite yet.
There's another reason to keep those rooms available.
Housing economist Jed Kolko addresses the question: Why Millennials Still Live With Their ParentsHis concern is with first-time home buyer demand, but here's his take on millennials (who are not flooding the housing market) :
"The increase in young adults living with parents over the past twenty years can be explained entirely by demographic changes. The increase since 2005 is not an aberration; once demographics are taken into account, the aberration is the bubble years of the mid-2000s, when an unusually low share of young adults was living with parents.""Unless demographic trends reverse, the share of young adults living with parents is unlikely to fall much. Today’s millennials will leave their parents’ homes as they age — they’re not going to live there forever. But it won’t be the sudden unleashing of pent-up demand we might have expected if the increase of living with parents were only about the housing bust and recession and not about longer-term demographic shifts."